Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Political Psychologist Are Suppressing Democracy

This is a follow up on several previous posts including Truth and Education Commission where I argued that we should educate the public much better about the activities the government has been conducting in the past and that we should begin informally before deciding to give immunity to anyone or what circumstances any deals may be considered; The Fundamentals of Psychology where I attempted to present the basics in a way the public can understand; Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment in which I discussed experiments conducted that may have been used to learn how manipulate the public; and Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association where I followed up on some of the experiments by Zimbardo and others and included some information about other activities the American Psychological Association may be conducting.
Political Psychologists are conducting an enormous amount of research that is designed to enable the people who run campaigns to learn how to effectively manipulate the electorate so that they will vote in the way that the people who run the campaigns choose assuming they’re successful. The biggest obstacle is of course the high profile opposition (either the Democratic Party or Republican Party depending in which is studying) which tends to use many of the same tactics. Neither of the two major parties is even trying to do a good job addressing the issues; instead it appears as if they may be relying on some of this research to enable them to manipulate as many members of the public as they can without addressing their concerns. For the most part this research is receiving very little attention. If the mainstream media does mention it, which they often do, they refer to it in a benign manner that doesn’t seem to imply the true purpose of this research. A look at a small sample of this research is enough to indicate that they are clearly not interested in “free and fair elections” even though they use that phrase in their own studies.
In a research paper titled “The Political Psychology of electoral campaigns: Introduction to the Symposium” James N. Druckman and Joanne M. Miller, Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, write “The foundation of virtually all conceptions of democratic government is the occurrence of free and fair elections, together with citizens’ participation in the electoral process. Elections serve as the mechanism through which the populace chooses their representatives, As such; they serve as the key linkage between the governed and the governors. How elections actually occur-that is who participates, what voters know, and who wins-depends on fundamental ways on candidates’ campaigns. Understanding the conduct and import of electoral campaigns is thus fundamental to political science…..” They go on to say that, “A consideration of voter psychology leads Jerit to predict that successful campaigns will continually use emotionally laden appeals to fear, anxiety, and anger.”

Which essentially indicates that the Political psychologist fully understand the fact that instead of conducting election campaigns that are based on the issues so that the voters can vote for the candidate who truly has the best interest of the public in mind they’re intentionally manipulating emotions. This is just a small sample of the research that is being done to understand how to manipulate the voters. To read complete paper see “The Political Psychology of Electoral Campaigns: Introduction to the Symposium” James N. Druckman and Joanne M. Miller Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota. (link may work better with Mozilla Firefox)
They’ve also done a lot of research on how people are motivated to donate to campaigns. In another research paper by Joanne M. Miller and Jon A. Krosnick, (link may work better with Mozilla Firefox) “Threat as a Motivator of Political activism: A field experiment,” they conducted research into how fear can be used to motivate people and they acknowledge the obvious fact that those without money can’t contribute much to campaigns; they write “Specifically, they argued that no matter how much people want to act, whether they actually do is limited partly by whether they have the resources necessary to do so.” They don’t seem to consider this is an issue that interferes with the sincerity of democracy. This research could lead the politicians to conduct campaigns that are designed to scare people so that they can increase the amount of money they can collect from people for their campaigns. The basis for many of the decisions that are made for these campaigns may be partly influenced by the research that these people are doing.

They have done an enormous amount of other research into subjects that effect the way people vote without addressing the issues that matter to the public like what impact the order the candidates are on the ballot has. They have researched campaign tactics like when Ronald Reagan removed his microphone so he could walk over and shake hands with Jimmy Carter who couldn’t move because he still had his attached. This was considered a great debating tactic. Four years later he scored a lot of points because he made a joke about not holding Walter Mondale’s age against him. An enormous amount of people voted for him because they liked him even though he wasn’t implementing policies that were good for the public or that the public agreed with. He was always full of scandal and earned the name the “Teflon President” at about the same time John Gotti was called the "Teflon Don.” Since then they have studied how to reform Reagan’s image so that it is much different from what it was when he was actually in office.

The most important thing may not be what they are doing but what they aren’t doing, as far as I can tell. They aren’t conducting research into effective ways to ensure that elections stay focused on the issues and that the people have an accurate understanding of the issues. Instead there is an enormous amount of research into ways that they can prevent people from doing this which would enable many of the most powerful campaign contributors and the politicians to choose policies with little or no input from the public. There are some people that are sincerely trying to do more to get the focus back on the issues but unfortunately they have much less political power and they don’t have any way to get their message across to a large audience.

A sincere democracy requires that the public participates in the process and that they’re able to base their decision on accurate information and without having their emotions manipulated for the benefit of the politicians or the contributors to political campaigns. These campaign contributions are essentially bribes despite the fact that the politicians claim that as long as there is no quid pro quo it is legal and fair. The people accepting the bribes have avoided calling them bribes by simply creating a definition that doesn’t apply even though it accomplishes the same goal as bribes. They routinely give much more consideration to the interests of those that donate to campaigns then those that don’t; then they rely on the research that they do to learn how to manipulate the rest and convince them to remain complacent. As a result of these bribes the system provides an enormous amount of financial incentive for Political Psychologist to conduct research that is designed to study how they can use political advertisements and other campaign methods to get their candidates elected even when they do little or nothing to address the issues.

These people are essentially high paid distinguished con-men.

They don’t portray themselves that way of course but a close look at what they do clearly indicates that this is what they are. In many cases it may be difficult to understand some of what they write; they often go into deep detail and use terms that a large segment of the public isn’t aware of. This could presumably be so that if the public has an opportunity to look at some of their material, as they often do, they won’t understand the full implication unless they spend a lot of time sorting out the details.

One of the most important aspects of the research that many of these political psychologists do is related to the polling that news agencies have been obsessing over for decades. The version of these polls that they present to the public is almost certainly not the same version that is available to many of the political operatives that run campaigns. In an article titled “Does Psychology Make a difference In Our Lives” Philip Zimbardo indicates that psychologist Hadley Cantril pioneered political polling in the 1940’s. The majority of the work done by political pollsters like Frank Luntz is probably not done by psychologists but they may consult with them when they need to and they may take minors in college about psychology. When these people take minors in psychology for the purpose of political activity it is possible that many of them study a select version of psychology designed to accomplish a narrow agenda; so their understanding of psychology may be limited and in some cases prejudicial, if it involves ignoring inconvenient facts that don’t support their ideology.

If we had a system that was sincerely interested in promoting democracy it would be more open and these manipulation tactics wouldn’t be the primary focus of research. If these tactics are researched then in order to preserve the integrity of democracy the public should be aware of it so that they know how to avoid being manipulated and the system would be fairer. Then the public could focus more attention on the issues. This is what I advocated when I recommended an Educational Revolution that would be followed by Election Reform. This election reform should enable the public to have control over the interview process and keep the focus on the issues. If the system was truly fair then we would spend more time trying to figure out how to provide incentives for those that do work that actually improves the quality of life for the majority; instead of providing incentives for people that manipulate the public so that the powerful can benefit at the expense of those without political power. The current system is suppressing the wages for most people that are more concerned with doing productive work and rewarding those that actually do more to make the quality of life for most people worse.

This research is presumably being done to help politicians decide how to run their campaign and the Media decide how to provide political coverage. It is increasingly obvious that the Mass Media which has been consolidated under a small number of powerful multi-national corporations aren’t trying to provide fair coverage to politics. Ideas that aren’t approved by the most powerful people have little or no chance to get much airtime in the corporate media. Instead they’re providing an enormous amount of political propaganda. Pollsters like Frank Luntz routinely consult with the media; in this case his primary client is often FOX news. The results of this research could enable them to conduct what they call push polling that involves asking questions that are based on false assumptions which are often presented as facts. They may do this on ideological grounds that are often designed to cater to the beliefs of a certain segment of the population. They may be gathering information through these polls to better understand what beliefs are dominant in which areas and adjust their campaign tactics so that they can cater to different beliefs in different areas. They may also use this research to help select the people that are chosen for focus groups if they want to do this in a manner that is designed to present a certain impression that a large segment of the population supports a certain policy even when they don’t. They could also pick people they may know tend to get emotional about certain subjects if they think it may serve their purposes. If Frank Luntz or someone like him presents a town hall meeting on FOX and a supporter gets emotional about a subject that Luntz and the FOX management supports it probably isn’t a result of a conspiracy where people are told how to act; however it may be partially a result of who they chose to participate in the hopes that something similar happens. On top of that there have been stories of political operatives advising their supporters on how to disrupt town hall meetings. The first time this happened that I know of was when they had the health care town hall meetings; and supposedly it happened again recently when Paul Ryan and other Republicans had more town hall meetings shortly after their votes to privatize Medicare, or as they say provide vouchers.

Whether this is unethical or not may depend on how they advised the public to interrupt the meetings and how the candidates were running the meetings. On some occasions the candidates announced that they weren’t going to take questions and some of the people that showed up became angry as a result of this.

One famous example was when Chris Christie had his speech, declared he wasn’t taking questions for one reason or another and then someone who came to the meeting on the expectation that some members of the public would be able to ask questions got upset and spoke up. Chris Christie held on to the microphone and yelled him down accusing him of being a bully and interrupting the meeting. The way the Media presented this didn’t enable most of the public to even know what the person had to say. Chris Christie might have been far more credible if he actually let some people speak but he didn’t and to those that didn’t support him he almost certainly seemed like the one who was acting like a bully. In an example like this it may be justifiable to provide some interruption if that is the only way to get the point across. If this becomes a routine way of conducting town hall meetings then rational advice on how to get a point across, that isn’t too extreme, may be justifiable as well. If on the other hand the advice given to disrupt meetings is designed to prevent people with opposing views to get their point across would not be reasonable. My impression is that the instances where the town hall meetings on health care were interrupted were designed to disrupt opposing views while the disruptive meetings after the privatization vote were a result of sincere anger about how they’re pushing corrupt policies through without input from the public that is designed to help campaign contributors. A review will confirm it or refute this assumption.

They are almost certainly using some of this research or they’re coming up with other ways to decide how to advise their commentators. One way or another they are attempting to present politics in a manipulative way that is designed to advance the causes of the agendas they choose. Judging by the way a growing number of commentators are behaving it appears as if they’re trying to appeal to an audience with the mentality of a teenager. They have a growing number of commentators that flirt with the audience more and more; one of the most notable of these is Mika Brzezinski however she isn’t the only one. They also have an enormous amount of demagogues manipulating people’s emotions including Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ed Shultz and many more. O’Reilly and Dennis Miller routinely ridicule people and laugh at them whenever they disagree with them like teenagers. Many of these people are highly paid and well educated. They may have some degrees in psychology or political science. They’re clearly not trying to provide sincere coverage of the issues. There is a strong possibility that they are intentionally trying to study how to do a more effective job manipulating the public; they certainly aren’t trying to do a good job covering important issues.

One of the most popular methods that they use to confuse the issues when they could present them in a much more effective manner is when they have people arguing with each other without listening to each other; they often do this so much that the audience can’t hear either one talk. This could be similar in some ways to kitchen table debates. In the past when kitchen table debates have been presented by the Mass Media they have often been portrayed in a much more rational manner where people sit and talk calmly so that each person can hear the other talk and reply in a reasonable manner. This is supposed to simulate the way many people have discussions in their own homes. I’m sure that in many cases this may be accurate however there are also many cases where people in their own homes tend to have much more emotional debates where people often yell at each other or talk at the same time without listening to each other.

In many cases many people may come to believe that this is typical and desirable; however when it comes to sincere debate about an important subject I’m sure that they may find that if they create a more organized debate that involves listening to the details and addressing them to the best of their ability it will be much more effective. This has been done on many occasions in the past and many rational people must realize that if they want to understand any given subject in the most effective way possible they should do it this way. If, on the other hand, they want to confuse the issue so that the public doesn’t understand the issues then this may be a much more effective way to do it. If their target audience feels a accustomed to arguing without listening to the other and they feel that this is the way they can win arguments often regardless of the facts they may actually like this tactic and consider it legitimate. This is unfortunate and it isn’t in their own best interest. If the Mass Media wanted to address this in the most effective way possible then they could encourage more rational debate by doing it first and on some occasion they could discuss the different debating tactics and which one is more effective when it comes to enabling the audience to understand the subject better.

On top of that they are constantly breaking for commercials which deprive the public of obtaining an opportunity to hear people out. If they wanted to present both sides of the story they could do much more to make additional information available on the internet now. This could involve adopting a standard claim that this discussion may be picked up at a certain website and both sides will have additional time to present their case. They could in some cases make one segment available to those that are on the show and they could respond to each other and everyone would have a chance to reply to everything. This could go on indefinitely or until they conclude that they have had a chance to have their say. They could have another segment that allows unlimited replies from the audience. This segment would presumably be much larger if they’re addressing a large audience. Since it is so long then the TV commentators may not be able to review them all so it is inevitable that some will go without being addressed. This is unfortunate; however they could do some experiments with different methods of screening the replies so that the most relevant ones could be highlighted and perhaps then the TV commentators could reply to them. And of course they should have a much more diverse selection of commentators presented on these shows.

This type of activity has been steadily increasing over the last couple of decades. There may be some young people that don’t fully realize how they used to cover the news and politics. The people that used to cover politics at least tried to act like adults in a civilized manner; this type of behavior would have been considered extremely unprofessional thirty years ago. Now it is standard procedure. This seems to have coincided with the consolidation of the Mass Media and the reduction in investment in the news reporting industry. It has also coincided with an increasingly corrupt system where the politicians have to collect much more bribes thinly disguised as campaign contributions each year to win elections. During this same time period by the admissions of many of the Political Psychologists they have also learned a lot more about how psychology affects the way campaigns are run. If the young people don’t learn about how the system is getting steadily worse and they get distracted by all the material presented by the Mass Media whether it is political or not then they could become accustomed to it and it may seem normal in a couple decades. If on the other hand a lot of adults maintain communication with younger people and tell them about how it is getting steadily worse and if they learn more about how they are being manipulated then this could lead to political reform and a more democratic system.

For some additional articles on Political Psychology see the following:
(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)

No comments:

Post a Comment